Found Kittens

Newborn kittenFind kittens? What to do and not do.

During high kitten season in the spring and summer, it’s not unusual to discover a nest of unattended kittens or a single kitten seemingly abandoned by the mother. You want to help, right?

Before jumping to the rescue... WAIT!

Mama Cat may be off searching for food.  She has to keep herself well fed to produce milk for the babies!  It is not unusual for a mama cat to be gone several hours.  She may also be in the process of moving the babies from one location to another (especially if you’ve found one alone). Removing kittens from their Mamma lessens their chance of survival. If unsure about what to do, before touching the kittens, call 510-790-6640 for guidance.

  1. Assess the kittens’ condition:
    • Does their fur look healthy, full and fluffy?
    •  Are they sleeping quietly? In a heap? 
    • Are they dry?
    • Are they dirty? Sickly?  Eyes crusty?
    •  Are they crying?  Squalling?
    •  Are they wet/soaked?
  2. Assess the environment/situation: 

    • Are the kittens in IMMEDIATE danger from:
      • Rain? Wet weather/flooding?  Cold?
      • Wild animals? Raccoons?  Dogs?
      • Traffic – pedestrian foot traffic? mean neighbors/kids? bicycles or cars?


Cat carrying kitten

Watch to see if the mama cat will return. You should monitor them from as far away as possible.

Do NOT place food near the kittens to lure Mama Cat.  (Mama Cat almost always purposely hides her litter away from food sources as she knows that food will attract other cats and even bigger predators!)

You may need to leave completely and come back later (6-8 hours) to check whether the kittens are still OK (dry, sleeping/quiet, appear fed, etc.)  Especially if she’s feral, Mama Cat will most likely NOT return until she no longer senses human presence.

Healthy kittens can survive several hours without food as long as they are warm. During typical ‘kitten season’ spring and summer months, waiting a longer time to see if Mama Cat will come back is usually very safe.

Neonatal kittens are much more at risk of hypothermia than they are of starvation.


Sick kitten

Remove the kittens **only** if they are in immediate, grave danger OR if they appear very sickly and ill.

  • If Mama Cat returns and the area is relatively safe, leave the kittens alone with Mama Cat until they are weaned (6-8 weeks). You can monitor the environment and offer a shelter and regular food to Mama Cat … but keep the food and shelter at a distance from each other. Mom will find the food but will not accept your shelter if the food is nearby, because she will not want to attract other cats – or any other predators — to food located near her nest.
    • If at all possible, its best to leave kittens with the Mama Cat for at least five weeks.  Six to eight weeks is the optimal age to take the kittens from the mother for socialization and adoption placement, and any time after eight weeks for Trap-Neuter-Return (spay/neuter, vaccination, eartip, and return to their colony).
    • NOTE:  Female cats can become pregnant with a new litter even while they are still nursing, so don’t forget to get the mother cat spayed or you will have more kittens soon!  For information or advice about trapping Mama Cats – and about local feral cat help and TNR programs, contact Ohlone Humane Society.
  • If the mother cat does not return…
    • The Mama Cat offers her kittens the absolute best chance for survival, so WAIT and WATCH as long as you can. The best food for kittens is their mother’s milk. She will provide them not only with properly balanced nutrition but also much-needed antibodies and immune system support!

      Although there are resources to help you, it would be best if you are prepared to… care for the kittens at least until getting additional help (which could be days or weeks) if you decide to intervene! If the kittens appear to be sick or need medical care, contact or 510.790.6640 before touching them. They may need to be taken to an emergency veterinarian. 

Found Kitten Flow Chart

Other resources:

If you decide to take in abandoned kittens, we may be able to provide free starter kits that contain a small amount of specially formulated kitten milk, a bottle, and other emergency, essential supplies for helping a tiny kitten through the night. These emergency baggies can be picked up at Beacon Emergency Veterinary Hospital or Pet Food Express in Fremont, when the shelter is closed.

Then you can contact us Monday – Sunday from 8am to 4pm, to schedule an age and behavior assessment appointment for the kittens at the Tri-City Animal Shelter by calling (510)790-6645.   

If you are not able to take care of the kittens through the night, please reach out to Beacon Emergency Veterinary Hospital.  

Can  you foster? Fostering is completely free to you; the shelter supports the kittens with veterinary care and supplies you will need until the kittens can be adopted, or you can no longer foster them. Fostering usually lasts no longer than 7 weeks but can be much shorter depending on the age of the kitten(s). For more information on fostering you may call (510) 790-6640 and ask to be transferred to the shelter's Foster Coordinator or send an e-mail to .

Check these videos from the Kitten Lady for tips and suggestions:

Thank you, Kitten Lady, for the graphics below.I found a kitten outside, should I bring it in my CASA?How to Age a Kitten